Must Eat Dishes While Visiting Peru

Peruvian cuisine is starting to become more and more popular in the United States exposing Americans to one of the most complex gastronomy in the world. We hear people talk mainly about Peruvian chicken and ceviche but there’s more to Peruvian food than just those two popular dishes. Should you find yourself staying in Peru, make sure to seek and sample as many of these must eat Peruvian dishes as possible while you are there.

Must Eat Peruvian Dishes

Ceviche

Peruvian Ceviche from Lima. Must Eat Peruvian Dishes
Peruvian Ceviche from Lima

Every eatery in Peru will definitely have ceviche on their menu – considered the country’s national dish – and for good reason. The country’s location just off the Pacific Ocean makes it a prime spot for fresh seafood, the main ingredient for ceviche. Other Latin American countries will have their own variety but the Peruvian version of the dish, often made with raw sea bass marinated in lime juice, red onion, local chilies (aji) and salt, is definitely my favorite among this list of must eat Peruvian dishes.

Ceviche is usually served as an appetizer but can substitute a full meal in itself because it’s usually accompanied by thick slices of sweet potato and Andean corn. Some restaurants, particularly those in bigger cities like Lima, will add other fresh seafood to the mix, such as shrimp and scallops. It’s best eaten with a glass of Pisco sour or chicha morada (purple corn juice).

Quinoa

Must Eat Peruvian Dishes
Quinoa Soup. Flickr: Robert Luna / CC BY 2.0

Visitors to Peru will at one point or another, encounter quinoa, the super food that’s growing in popularity in Europe and North America. However, it may come as a surprise to some that this “exotic” crop, grown in the Andes Mountains has been around for several thousands of years. In fact, generations of Peruvians and Bolivians had the right idea when they domesticated it and made it a part of their daily diet. Quinoa contains a higher percentage of protein, calcium and iron than rice and also has enough amino acids per serving to satisfy the daily nutritional requirement.

Peruvians eat quinoa with everything: as a side to meat and seafood dishes, on its own in soups and even mixed in fruit and honey as dessert, making it one of the must eat Peruvian dishes while visiting Peru. If the locals devour it, who are we to object, right?

Lomo Saltado

Lomo Saltado Must Eat Peruvian Dishes
Lomo Saltado

Ceviche might very well be Peru’s national dish but one can argue that lomo saltado is right up there in popularity making it one of the must eat dishes while visiting Peru. Its main ingredient is beef or sometimes alpaca meat, marinated in soy sauce and then stir fried with tomatoes, onions and aji peppers until tender. Served with rice and French fries, the dish is a classic example of Peru’s fusion cuisine.

Aji de Gallina

Aji de Gallina, Must Eat Peruvian Dishes
Aji de Gallina

If you’re looking for a more traditional option on the menu, look no further than aji de gallina. This dish made with shredded chicken topped with thick yellow cream might appear strange at first, but don’t let appearances fool you. In one bite, you’ll be able to get a hint of spice (from the aji peppers), sweetness (from the condensed milk) and nuttiness (from the ground walnuts). Often served with rice or boiled potatoes, it’s the equivalent of Peruvian comfort food.

Causa

Different Causa at Nazca Mochica. Must Eat Peruvian Dishes
Different Causas at Nazca Mochica

For us Americans, the idea of a cold mashed potato might sound revolting at first, but when mixed with lime juice, spicy aji amarillo sauce and topped with layers of avocado, eggs, olives and chicken or tuna salad, it begins to sound rather intriguing. Such dish is actually called causa, common in markets within Cusco and the surrounding Andean towns. Often shaped like a cake log or a terrine, its colorful appearance is inviting. Just don’t expect icing to ooze from within.

Cuy (Guinea Pig)

Must Eat Peruvian Dishes
Baked cuy. Flickr: Steven Damron / CC BY 2.0

Visitors to Peru will often cringe at the thought of eating cuy, considering some of them had or has guinea pigs as pets, but it’s important to know that the dish itself is a delicacy and an important part of the rural Peruvian diet. Often roasted on a stick and served with potatoes, it tastes just like chicken but a bit chewier and with more bones. The tradition of eating cuy goes back centuries and is unique to the Andean culture, making it one of the must eat Peruvian dishes.

About Iris A

Website: http://www.travelingwithiris.com

Born in the Philippines, but grew up in Texas, Iris has been traveling and writing about her experiences for well over a decade. Her work has been published on well-known travel sites like Hipmunk (#hipmunkcitylove) and D Magazine Online Travel Club. She has been all over Europe, the US, and has recently started exploring Latin America. She loves trying local cuisine and visiting UNESCO deemed World Heritage sites. Her favourite city is New York, with London, following a close 2nd. You can follow her on Twitter @sundeeiris or through her travel blog, Traveling With Iris.

Other posts by the Author

3 Responses

  1. Avatar for Iris A

    Julia Hammond

    Yes, I know what you mean about it being sweet – I have a very sweet tooth! Heading back to Peru next year (my fifth visit) and will be straight to La Bodega Verde in Barranco for a lucuma milkshake.

    Reply
  2. Avatar for Iris A

    JuliaHammond

    Making me hungry – this is like a who’s who of my favourites! I love anticuchos too, especially made from llama meat – perfect street food. I’d also add lucuma ice cream – if I ever find somewhere over here selling it in anything other than powder form, I’ll be a regular customer. The only thing I cannot stand is chuño – once was very definitely enough!

    Reply
    • Avatar for Iris A

      Iris A

      I completely understand! After I wrote this, I craved Peruvian food! They really have some of the best cuisines in the world.

      I tried lucuma before and liked it, though it was somewhat too sweet for my taste. Definitely worth trying but won’t eat it everyday.

      Reply

Leave a Reply